Photoshop is a reality in the world of photography, but it gets out of hand when advertisers and fashion directors completely transmogrify the original image, creating an unrealistic and impossible result. New research proposes a way to codify how heavily Photoshopped an image is. The only catch? The industry has to cooperate with it.

Image retouching can be used to simply correct colors and get stray hairs out of someone's face, but fairly often strays into the realms of the ludicrious. An outright ban on Photoshopped images does nothing to differentiate, and is a blunt tool that disallows an important piece of software.

This new method compares the original image to the retouched one, and compares it on two fronts: geometric changes (that's the heavy duty reshaping and morphing) and photometric (sharpening, blurring, removing spots, killing wrinkles and the like). Between these two measures it creates an automatic rating from 1-5, a rating which corresponded pretty closely to how a group of humans rated each image, in tests.


It's been pretty well established that the rampant over-use of Photoshop in advertising and editorial imagery has produced an unrealistic standard of beauty, and has had a negative impact on the self-image of many. The research proposes using the automated system to create a rating so that people automatically know just how retouched the image is. The big problem is that since it needs to compare the original image to the final version, it relies on someone handing over the original to work, which means the advertisers need to agree to it — something I'm not entirely convinced will happen.